According to FBI statistics, approximately 9,000 African Americans are killed in this country annually. This carnage is basically ignored by the news media, which treats the vast majority of these cases as non-stories. This major tragedy is consistently overlooked by a media that often highlights the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. While all of these deaths are tragic, it is much more dangerous for African Americans on the streets of our country than it is for our soldiers fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan.
To add some perspective to the numbers, about 6,588 Americans have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, but 108,000 African Americans have been killed on the streets of America. Thus, the death toll for black citizens in the U.S. is almost 17 times greater than it has been for our soldiers fighting overseas.
This African American death rate is shockingly high and should be analyzed by the media. Unfortunately, most of our journalists are not fair and balanced. Sadly, too many in the media today are looking for sensational stories and one sure fire method of creating controversy and attention is to stoke fears of racial injustice.
Enter George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, who shot and killed 17 year old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida in February of last year. The media has focused on this one incident, even though approximately 12,000 African Americans have been killed throughout the country in this same time period. The other cases were mostly disregarded because they involved “black on black” crime. FBI statistics show that approximately 93% of African American homicide victims are killed by other African Americans. Such crimes are not juicy or interesting to a media that wants to promote racial division and cause strife in this country.
Clearly, the media focused on the Trayvon Martin case because of the race factor. Trayvon Martin was black and George Zimmerman is Hispanic, although, initially, the media erroneously referred to the neighborhood watch volunteer as “white.” After civil rights leaders and politicians joined the fray, it was no surprise that Zimmerman was charged with second degree murder.
Zimmerman became the poster child for racism, even though his best friend is an African American. The media depicted Martin as a very young child and presented inaccurate pictures to viewers. Martin was not a young child targeted by a “racist” Zimmerman. In fact, he was a tall, muscular young man who had a questionable past and multiple brushes with the law, but all of this was hidden from Americans.
If Zimmerman was a black neighborhood watch volunteer or Martin had been a white or Hispanic youngster, this story would have been ignored by a media that has no interest in the vast majority of the 9,000 African American murders each year.
As a sensational trial moves forward, the country will learn whether George Zimmerman is guilty or not. We may also learn whether Martin was an innocent youngster trying to get to his father’s house or a troubled young man looking for a fight.
Ideally, there should be a calm reaction across the country to whatever verdict is reached. Instead, there are concerns that civil unrest will lead to rioting if Zimmerman is acquitted. Hopefully, these threats will not influence a jury that is only supposed to consider the facts presented in the case.
Regardless of the decision, it is appalling that so much is at stake in this trial. If there are riots, much of the blame should rest with the news media which created such racial unease with their coverage of this case.
Let’s hope and pray that sanity prevails both in the courtroom and throughout the nation.
Jeff Crouere is a native of New Orleans, LA and he is the host of a Louisiana based program, “Ringside Politics,” which airs at 7:30 p.m. Fri. and 10:00 p.m. Sun. on WLAE-TV 32, a PBS station, and 7 till 11 a.m. weekdays on WGSO 990 AM in New Orleans and the Northshore. For more information, visit his web site at www.ringsidepolitics.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.